What I wish I’d known: Northeastern students offer advice to incoming freshmen
For freshmen making their college debuts, your elders at Northeastern want you to learn a few lessons the easy way. When to acclimate to your new surroundings, for example. Or how to keep up academically.
Left to right: Aaron Calpo, Sasheen Joseph, Alexis Hooks, Valeria Vazquez, Brynn Waszmer and Juan Garibay Atef
Some things are best learned the hard way. Such as macroeconomics, baking a soufflé that doesn’t collapse or flicking a drop shot in pickleball — these are things you can’t know until you’ve worked through them.
But other things in life can be hacked.
For freshmen making their college debuts, your elders at Northeastern want you to learn a few lessons the easy way. When to acclimate to your new surroundings, for example. Or how to keep up academically. Or whether to join that club or organization that’s intriguing (even if you aren’t quite sure).
We asked a variety of experienced Northeastern students, “What is something you wished you’d known as a freshman?”
Here are their answers.
Stay on top of what you’re learning.
Physical therapy, graduate student
Hometown: San Francisco
Stay on top of what you’re learning. Even try to get ahead if you can. Because information comes really fast. If you stay on top and even try to get ahead on lectures, you’re primed for success. Because I did the exact opposite. I don’t even think it was procrastinating. I think I was just overwhelmed with the amount of information. I realized I have to do the legwork to get ahead.
Join clubs as soon as you can
Criminal justice and psychology, fourth year
Hometown: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
I definitely think that people should join clubs as soon as they can. Try to do it when they arrive. I know a lot of people wait until the second semester of their freshman year but it’s easier to build relationships with people if they have the opportunity first semester. I joined clubs second semester of my freshman year just because I came in during COVID, so a lot of the clubs were online anyway. But [by then] some people had already built connections and everything. So I definitely wish that I did it first semester.
First-generation college student? You’re not alone.
Juan (Johnny) Garibay Atef
Business administration, third year
Being able to find your community and your support group, even on the first day, is super helpful. I’m president of the First-Gen Low-Income Student Union. It can help first-generation and low-income students by providing a community and social capital for them to excel at Northeastern. We do this by being able to have programming — like how to waive the health insurance Northeastern charges and overcoming imposter syndrome. We want them to know that they are welcomed into this community and Northeastern University as a whole and they can have a support system along the way.
Don’t be shy
Health science, fourth year
Hometown: San Francisco
Don’t be shy about approaching classmates, introducing yourself after class — or just talking to them. It can be really helpful to get your classmates’ phone numbers so you can study together or help each other out in class. I studied a lot with one of my friends freshman year for my calculus class. It helped to have a friend going through the same struggles.
Explore your surroundings
Psychology, third year
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Travel as much as you can, get to know the city, get to know the community and try to make as many connections with other people as possible. Take advantage of all the opportunities that you have in your first year. I tried my best but I feel like I could have done even more my first year. Also, I’m not much of a baseball person. I really enjoyed going to the Boston Common and The Public Garden. I went on the Freedom Trail with my parents and that was really cool. There’s so much history.
Seek out multiple interests
Computer science and business administration, recent graduate
Hometown: Manassas, Virginia
Take advantage of a lot of the different clubs and organizations that we have on campus. When I was a freshman I put my name down on a bunch of email lists for things I was interested in — but I never ended up going to them. And then as every year went by, I would tell myself, ‘I really wish I would have made time for that.’ The main way that I found a lot of these clubs that I didn’t know existed was through things my friends were involved in. It wasn’t until my last year that I would actually attend these things.
Ship your stuff
Journalism and media screen studies, recent graduate
Hometown: Los Angeles
I had all my stuff pre-shipped — and that was probably the best thing I could have done for my moving-in process. I sent something like 10 or 12 boxes and got it by mail pickup. It made it easier than trying to pack all that stuff with me on a six-hour flight. There was no way I’m going to move everything back and forth. And for the past two years I’ve been off campus, so I’ve just had it in my apartment [year-round].
Become an expert in time management
Criminal justice and psychology, third year
Hometown: Lindenhurst, New York
Learn time management. You’re going to get pulled in a million different directions. You’re not in high school anymore. You have the time to really branch out and explore — so make sure you’re managing your time. It’s really a trial-and-error type thing. Obviously school is important — focus on that — but you also need to see when you can fit things in your schedule. Just do whatever you love and make the most of your time here.
Have faith in yourself
Chemical engineering and bioengineering, second year
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
I think freshmen get in their head a lot, like, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I not doing the right thing?’ Just know that everyone around you feels a similar way. If you want to become a better version of yourself, you have to seek that out. So if there’s something that you’re curious about or frustrated about, just listen to yourself. Be true to who you are, what you’re thinking and how you feel — and then you’ll do great wherever you go. As a freshman you really have nothing to lose.